Anger Management: How Do I Stop Hitting People Who Upset Me?

Reader’s Question

The first time this happened was when I was younger. Somebody did something, and I just got so mad that I hit him. Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve done this a time or two. I don’t beat the crap out of anyone! But I do hurt and hit them. When I realize that I’ve hit someone again, I just walk away because I can’t believe I let myself get that angry! Most of the time I stay away from things that make me upset, and that works. But I still want to know: why do I get so mad? It doesn’t happen all the time, just every once in a while.

What can I do to stop it? I don’t want to hurt people ever! But it’s like they know everything that pisses me off and that’s what they want.

Psychologist’s Reply

You appear to be a classic candidate for anger-management therapy, which is cognitive-behavioral therapy targeted toward regulating emotions (especially negative and angry emotions) and controlling aggressive impulses. The therapy works in a number of ways. It helps you re-direct the perceived “locus of control.” Instead of thinking that people do things that “piss [you] off,” it re-directs your awareness to your internal dialog and what you say to yourself to get yourself worked up. It also helps you become more aware of the step-by-step escalation process (called a behavior chain) that causes you to lose control over your impulses and to solidify better coping skills. Merely avoiding potentially anger-evoking circumstances only reinforces the erroneous notion that the situations — as opposed to you — are in “control” of your responses.

So, take heart. If you really want to learn how to manage your anger and aggression, seek out a counselor who specializes in state-of-the-art cognitive-behaviorally-based anger management and aggression-replacement therapies.

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